[MUSIC PLAYING] SPEAKER: As a potential means of using a clean, reliable, and renewable source of energy to heat its Ithaca Campus, Cornell University is exploring Earth Source Heat, an innovative geothermal system that would use thermal energy stored deep underground. Cornell scientists and engineers have spent several years gathering data, analyzing boreholes in New York and nearby states, and studying rock formations beneath the university's Ithaca Campus.
The next step is to create a state-of-the-art borehole observatory. The borehole will also provide opportunities for scientific discovery and allow researchers to explore deep subsurface rock conditions and heat output. Following proper permitting and environmental reviews, a drill rig will be assembled on site. Water-monitoring wells and a range of seismometers have been installed to provide information that can help maintain safe conditions.
Next, a drill will break apart dirt and solid rock as it slowly makes its way through the Earth. The pieces of broken rock and dirt will be carried up and out of the borehole. Researchers will analyze these rocks to learn about the subsurface and make adjustments to the drilling process.
At several planned depths, drilling will be paused and a protective casing made of steel and cement installed, safeguarding both the environment and the borehole. This process prevents unwanted materials from escaping, such as small amounts of natural gas or salty water. Several types of sensors and probes will be used to collect data and to monitor the borehole.
At the deepest portion of the borehole, geologists will collect data about rock composition and density and take core samples to learn more about the minerals, fluids, and spatial organization of the rock. At this depth, scientists will learn the most critical information about the viability and safety prospects of the proposed Earth Source Heat system. Here, they hope to find temperatures around 200 degrees Fahrenheit and rock that allows for permeability and flow.
After rigorous testing, if the subsurface conditions are found to be highly promising for deep geothermal, the university would next look to drill a well-pair on campus capable of heating many of its buildings. The goal is not only to heat the entire Ithaca Campus but to create a low-carbon solution for New York state and beyond.
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Cornell is moving forward, and underground, with plans to drill an observatory borehole to explore the viability – and ensure the safety – of using deep geothermal energy to heat the Ithaca campus, and potentially, other locations with similar cold-weather climates. For more information, visit: